You guys, I really messed up on this one. I came into it with a plan, I had a bunch of songs lined up. It was going to be full of new music, stuff from the new A$AP Rocky, The Go! Team and Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment albums. But then I decided to put "Losing My Edge" by LCD Soundsystem after "Die Slow" by HEALTH, and the whole thing just went off the rails from there.
The good news though, is that it worked really well, and I ended up with one of my favorite mixes thus far (even without all the new songs I wanted to include). So that means The Dylan Samson Mix Series is back again with Volume 55, titled "All the Fucking Possibilities." In addition to the artists mentioned above, this month's mix features music from the likes of Aphex Twin, Shabazz Palaces, and Passion Pit. If you want to grab the only copy, it's somewhere in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
1. David Bowie : Space Oddity
With all the terrible things that happened to Major Tom as Bowie revisited the character throughout his career, it's always a bit refreshing to revisit that moment when he was a real hero. That's the thing about "Space Oddity," the song feels heroic. The swelling orchestra, the understated guitar solo that always reminds me of George Harrison on "Let it Be." It feels like Bowie is scoring an accomplishment, writing something to match the excitement of the race to space. He captures that excitement like it were lightning in a bottle, something lesser hands would never be able to harness, but that Bowie handles like it were the most regular thing in the world.
2. Fucked Up : Son the Father
And here is where someone takes that bottle, and smashes it on the ground. Fucked Up comes roaring out of the gate with "Son the Father," securing their spot as one of the most important and unique punk bands making music today. The way those delicate flutes in the opening bars steadily distort until all that's left is pure noise, only to be replaced with rushing guitar parts and lyrics soaked in religious symbolism. Yet for all its energy, for all its rush, symbolism, and discussion of the relationship between faith and doubt, "Son the Father" is still, at its core, a pop song. It follows an age old structure of songwriting and attention to detail that forms a sort of glue, holding the song together even as the individual players are attempting to pull it apart.
3. HEALTH : Die Slow
Upon its release, "Get Color" felt like a major step forward for HEALTH. No, it wasn't drastically different from their previous releases, but it felt more realized, less of a sonic experimentation and more of a statement from a band that truly stood out in 2009's Indie music scene. "Die Slow" is a perfect example of this, showing off the sense of confidence that was imbued in the entire album. We'll be getting a new album from HEALTH in August, and if any of the work they've done since "Get Color" (the soundtrack for "Max Payne 3," a great EP and remix album, and a pretty fantastic new single) provides an idea of the direction they'll be taking, it's sure to be a great step forward for one of the most unique bands around today.
4. LCD Soundsystem : Losing My Edge
Like I said, this is where the mix kind of derailed from its initial intention. I promise, I wasn't just trying to squeeze in an LCD Soundsystem song. It's just that the static, raw noise James Murphy used to introduce himself to the world as LCD Soundsystem works so well after HEALTH's brand of unrelenting noise punk. And from here — from the first of many songs where Murphy would work through his own midlife crisis by brining millions of musicians and fans back to the dance floor — everything else just sort of fell into place. It might not be what I originally intended with this mix, but keep listening. I promise it works.
5. Shabazz Palaces : 32 Leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon
Those first two Shabazz Palaces EPs don't get nearly the attention they're due. Don't get me wrong, both of Shabazz Palaces' full length albums are absolutely fantastic. But those albums would never have existed if Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire hadn't first thrown out all existing hip-hop templates to create "Of Light" and "Shabazz Palaces." The amount of new ground being broken on these records is astonishing. Listen to the way those breakbeat drums at the beginning "32 Leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon" sound almost like gunshots, or the way they blend live percussion with electronic sounds, warping both until they are only barely distinguishable, or the way they eschew any kind of traditional song structure, anchoring the song around a seldom used refrain of "Do it for my people so I know that y'all can have it." The experiments Butler and Maraire released on these two EP's set the stage for some of the best and most unique hip-hop of the last 10 years, and will be felt throughout the genre for years to come.
6. Animal Collective : What Would I Want? Sky
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I don't really "get" Animal Collective. The appeal of 90% of their catalogue is simply lost on me, and even that remaining 10% is all kind of hit or miss. "What Would I Want? Sky" is a pretty good example; I could really live without the somewhat unimaginative noise music that dominates first half of the song (though it does make for a great transition from Shabazz Palaces to Beirut), but the second half, when they switch to a more traditional pop song form while pulling from their more experimental sonic pallet, mixing in a strange but hypnotic sample, createed something absolutely fantastic. I'm not sure I'll ever really understand Animal Collective's appeal, but when they hit, they hit hard.
7. Beirut : My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille [Live]
I was really excited when, in 2009, Zach Condon announced he would be releasing an EP under his Realpeople moniker. It had been years since he'd released any electronic music, so it was interesting to see how his time recording as Beirut would effect his electronic impulses. The EP (2009's "Holland") proved fantastic, and from there it was compelling to see how Beirut re-worked some of these electronic compositions for their live sets. Listen to the swing the band adds to "My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille" in this recording from a show at the The Music Hall of Williamsburg, to the energetic accordion and keyboard parts that propel the song forward, or how Condon's voice steadily adds more and more heft until he's almost shouting the lyrics to the crowd. If the "Holland" EP was an example of Condon following his musical instincts rather than simply sticking to what had made him popular, the fact that the songs he made during that endeavor adapt so well into the more "traditional" Beirut sound is proof of how strong a songwriter he truly is.
8. Passion Pit : The Reeling
I actually came to this song through the great remix by Bubblegum Sci-Fi, and while I still like that version a little more, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the angst ridden intensity of Passion Pit's original. In the best way possible, this song captures the uncertainty and apprehension felt by almost everyone throughout their teens and into their 20s. It's like all the moments during high school that you didn't tell your parents about — maybe because you thought your friends would be more understanding, maybe because your parents were the source of your fears to begin with — have all been channeled into an energetic, jangley, electro-pop song that screams at its audience "Hey, you're not alone, we feel this way too!" Passion Pit didn't quite make it to my high school before I graduated, but I can only imagine this album would have made quite an impression on a younger version of myself. It could have been pretty special.
9. Hot Chip : And I Was a Boy from School
This might be my favorite Hot Chip song. I can't quite explain why, it doesn't fit a lot of the qualities I love about this band. But there's something about it that just works. Everything fits together perfectly, so that even some of the stranger sounds they introduce never feel out of place. It's like a well oiled machine, a favorite gadget that just works every you use it. Like the band that recorded it, "And I Was a Boy from School" is reliably great, no matter the situation, which is something that should never be taken for granted with any kind of art.
10. Aphex Twin : Windowlicker
Quite possibly the greatest electronic song ever recorded. Never mind that it is a quintessential Aphex Twin track. Never mind that it still sounds fresh, relevant and modern 16 years after it was released, "Windowlicker" is simply a song that could not exist in any other genre. It takes advantage of the vast canvas that electronic music provides, mixing in elements from so many different subgeneres and finding a way to make them fit together while still remaining distinct. It never blends, it just combines, and does so while following a structure that remains not only interesting, but thoroughly engrossing throughout its entire running time. Perfection on record my friends, perfection on record.
11. Blockhead : The Music Scene
I don't know how Blockhead does it. Beyond being a reliably fantastic beat maker, and one of hip-hop's true innovators, the man is almost unmatched in his sample section skills. Not only is a Blockhead sample instantly memorable, but each one sets the tone for the sounds that will come up through the rest of that song. It's a craft few others have honed quite like Blockhead, and has kept his music — not only his solo work, but his production for artists like Aesop Rock and Murs — a delectable, interesting treat across each of his releases.